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From Swastika to Jim Crow (2000)

Independent documentary exploring the little-known story of Jewish refugee scholars teaching at historically black colleges before and during the Second World War.




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Credited cast:
Luc Sante ...


Before and during the Second World War, Jewish intellectuals and scholars who escaped Nazi Germany and immigrated to the U.S. faced an uncertain future. Confronted with anti-Semitism at major universities and a public distrust of foreigners, a surprising number secured teaching positions at traditionally Black colleges in the segregated South. In many cases they formed lasting relationships with their students and had an important impact on the communities in which they lived and worked. This is a story of two cultures, each sharing a burden of oppression, brought together by the tragic circumstances of war. The film also highlights the role of African Americans such as Ralph Bunche in securing positions for these refugee scholars at places like Howard University, Tougaloo College and Hampton Institute. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

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Almost perfect
7 January 2005 | by (Oakland CA) – See all my reviews

Just when you thought there were no more unexplored corners of the Holocaust left to explore, along comes a film like From Swastika to Jim Crow. This all too brief documentary explores the migration of the German Jewish intelligentsia from their homeland to the United States during the 1930s. Welcomed with less than open arms by anti-Semitic WASP America, the German educators moved on to institutions of higher learning that welcomed them with open arms: the black colleges of the southern states. This film includes interviews with surviving instructors and chronologically charts their years in the South, commencing with the days of segregation and moving through the turbulent 50s--when many German émigrés were considered Communist fellow travellers or worse--into the radical 60s. The film also includes enlightening interviews with many former students. This is an almost perfect film that suffers from one problem (knocking my rating down to a '9'): it doesn't identify its interview subjects. That minor caveat aside, this is one of the most powerful and uplifting films you're ever likely to see.

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